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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, originally we were planning to vote at 5:30 p.m. The distinguished ranking member has no objection. I ask unanimous consent that the time be divided between now and 5:30 p.m. in the normal fashion and the votes be at 5:30 p.m.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, so Senators will know, it is my understanding that the first vote, on the confirmation of Fernando Olguin, of California, will be a voice vote, and the second one for Mr. Durkin will be a rollcall vote, which is what I understand from the Senator from Iowa, which, of course, is perfectly acceptable to the Democratic side.

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, today the Senate is finally being allowed to vote to confirm two consensus judicial nominees who should have been voted on months ago. Both Judge Fernando Olguin and Thomas Durkin were voted out of the Judiciary Committee before the August recess. Both will finally fill judicial emergency vacancies in the Central District of California and the Northern District of Illinois that were needlessly held vacant since this summer by partisan delay tactics. Their service to the American people has been unnecessarily delayed by over four months.

In the Central District of California, there are over 12,000 cases pending before its judges, and in the Northern District of Illinois there are close to 11,000 cases pending before its judges. Every single judge in each district has approximately 450 or more cases pending on their dockets. This enormous backlog of cases exists in many of our Federal courts in this country and it means that the American people are not able to receive speedy justice.

More than twice the number of judicial vacancies exists compared to the vacancies left at the end of President Bush's first term. The Senate should be voting on all 16 of the judicial nominees reported to the Senate by the Judiciary Committee. I have also been urging Republicans to expedite consideration of the four judicial nominees who participated in hearings last Wednesday. That would lead to 20 more confirmations before the Senate adjourns later this month.

Historically, the Senate has confirmed hundreds of judicial nominees within 14 days of their Judiciary Committee hearings, including more than 600 confirmed since World War II within just one week of their hearings. In contrast, obstruction by Senate Republicans has caused President Obama's district court nominees to wait an average of 103 days for a Senate vote after being reported by the Judiciary Committee, which Committee consideration has itself often been delayed 30 days or more after their hearings. This destructive practice of delaying for no good reason should be abandoned.

Republican filibusters and pocket filibusters are also preventing votes on circuit court nominees who should be confirmed by consensus before the Senate adjourns for the year. For example, one of the nominations Senate Republicans are holding up is that of Judge Robert Bacharach of Oklahoma to the Tenth Circuit, who they filibustered earlier this year. Senator Coburn, one of his home state Senators, said: ``He has no opposition in the Senate. . . . There's no reason why he shouldn't be confirmed.'' That also applies to Richard Taranto, who was reported more than eight months ago to a vacancy on the Federal Circuit. That applies to William Kayatta of Maine, who was reported nearly eight months ago and has the support of his two home state Republican Senators.

After today's votes, there will still be nine judicial nominees stalled on the Senate Executive Calendar who were reported before the August recess, and who should have been confirmed months ago. Most are consensus nominees. All have the support of both their home state Senators, including their home state Republican Senators. The Senate should be voting to confirm all these nominees before the Senate adjourns for the year.

When George W. Bush was President, Senate Democrats cooperated in moving judicial nominees quickly through the Committee and to a confirmation vote at the end of the year. I did so whether I was Chairman or the ranking member. By way of example, in 2008 we confirmed five of President Bush's nominees just three days after their hearing. We have often been able to do this at the end of a Congress, and this year should be no exception especially given the high level of judicial vacancies plaguing our Federal courts.

Judge Fernando Olguin is nominated to fill a judicial emergency vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, where he has been serving as a Magistrate Judge for over a decade. He was the first Latino-American to serve as a Magistrate Judge in that District. Prior to that, Judge Olguin was in private practice for several years and also served as a Trial Attorney at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He earned his law degree from the University of California at Berkley. After law school, he clerked for the Honorable C.A. Muecke of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. His nomination has the support of both his home state Senators. Judge Olguin was approved by the Judiciary Committee nearly five months ago by voice vote.

Thomas Durkin is nominated to fill a judicial emergency vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Currently a partner at the Chicago office of Mayer Brown LLP, he also served as a Federal prosecutor in the Northern District of Illinois for 13 years. During his time as a Federal prosecutor, he rose to become the Chief of the Criminal Receiving and Appellate Division as well as the Chief of the Special Prosecutions Division. From 1991 to 1993, he served as the First Assistant United States Attorney of that District. Upon graduation from law school, he served as a law clerk for the Honorable Stanley J. Roszkowski of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary unanimously gave him its highest possible rating of ``Well Qualified.'' His nomination has the bipartisan support of his home state Senators. He was approved by the Judiciary Committee more than four months ago by voice vote.

The Senate should finally confirm these two nominees today and proceed to vote on all the other judicial nominees stalled on the Senate Executive Calendar. We can fill 10 more judicial emergency vacancies before adjourning this year. We can help our Federal courts uphold their constitutional responsibility to provide speedy justice.

I yield the floor.


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